How Come Growing up I could Say the P Word but not the N Word?

I really don’t get this.  Growing up my parents didn’t use and I was not allowed to use the “N” word, but I could use the “P” word.  Though my parents weren’t Polish (I could say “thank God” here and most Poles would even laugh.), they were from the heavily Polish Bay City, Michigan.  We could say Polack and even tell jokes about them, but never, ever about Black people.  They might have been Negros back then; I don’t think they were African-Americans yet.  In any event, it troubles me that certain ethnic slurs are all right and even used in church newsletters.

To gyp yourself of holy week services is to slur the gypsies.  To not want to have chinky workmanship in your sanctuary is to slur the Chinese.  To state that your youth who will be auctioning themselves off and will not be jewed down is to slur Jewish people.

Most people should know this.  Whether they do or don’t, I know that you can say all of these in public and won’t likely to be called to account or corrected, but woe to you if you use the word “niggardly.”  Though it has absolutely no taint of a racial, ethnic slur because it sounds like it does, it does.

To me, this is the legacy of postmodernism.  It doesn’t matter what something actually means it matters how it is perceived.  Thus when I was in grade school a track event was the broad jump.  Feminism took care of that one.  For many years you couldn’t pronounce harassment ha-rass-ment but had to say harres-ment.  Maybe 15 or so years ago Ur-anus became Ur-nus.  Okay, maybe that was a good one.  Perhaps then we should go with Crap-em instead of Shittim for the town so named in Numbers 25:1?

Where I’m really going with this is that I’ve been told for over 25 years that our real problem in Synod is that we don’t talk nice to or about one another.  Our discourse doesn’t sound nice.  If that’s really are problem, “let’s go” to quote an oil company or the LCMS president.  “Would the gentlemen from St. John please stop inviting everyone with a pulse to commune?”  “Would the gentle lady from St. Mark please stop advocating for woman pastors?”  “Would River Bridge Church kindly put the name Lutheran in their name?”

Any synod that makes truth its boast has to be most concerned with what words mean than how they make others feel.  The latter may be diplomacy and certainly is politic in politics, but I don’t see how it serves truth.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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